During the last few weeks, autumn’s incessant easterly gales kept my boat in the garage and me largely on dry land.
By the final week of the school holidays, I was busting to get out of the house and ready to try any sort of fishing. With my options limited by the weather, I decided to check out a rumour that Milford Marina, a short stroll from my home, played host to good numbers of parore (Girella tricuspidata).
I’d seen a few Chinese anglers fishing in the marina, but assumed they were after the yelloweyed mullet that swim up Wairau Creek with the tide. An inspection of one gentleman’s catch bucket confirmed my suspicion: a good haul of fat herrings – but no parore.
However, I knew their bread baits wouldn’t tempt parore, so it was possible these local fishers were totally unaware of their presence. This was unfortunate for them, as these are good-sized, hard fighting fish, and not bad to eat when prepared properly; I’m sure any Chinese cook worth his or her salt would make a very appetising dish from a fat parore!
It was now clear I’d have to find out for myself if there were any parore in Milford Marina.
What’s so special about parore?
Nothing really, apart from the aspects mentioned above, which are reason enough for me to fish for them. Parore have never been a popular angling species in New Zealand, perhaps because they are commonly considered poor table fare. It’s true their flesh can have an ‘earthy’ or ‘weedy’ flavour at times, which isn’t surprising considering they’re largely vegetarian, but in my experience they’re not bad to eat at all – certainly better than trout!
I’ve found the silvery fish caught in the open ocean are better to eat than the darker, brownish specimens caught in estuaries.
Those parore I’ve kept for the table have been killed and cleaned immediately, with care taken to remove all the ‘blood’ along the backbone (actually the kidneys) and scrub away the gut cavity’s black lining. This is a bit of a hassle, but worth it, as it taints the fish. A quicker alternative, of course, is to immediately fillet your parore.
As with any seafood, plenty of ice ensures improved eating qualities. In Australia, parore fishers mix salt ice with milk, consigning fresh fillets to this slurry with the skin attached, but the black gut lining removed.
Apart from their reputation as poor eating, I think the main reason parore do not feature in the catches of Kiwi anglers is because they seldom eat fish-flesh baits. Let’s face it: we Kiwis are lazy anglers. Surrounded by good-sized, easy-to-catch species, we seldom have to stray far from a chunk of fish flesh pinned on a hook to catch a feed.
That approach may be fine for snapper or blue cod, but there are several New Zealand fish species that require different, more sophisticated approaches, and parore is one of them.
A member of the drummer (Kyphosidae) family, along with the much larger silver drummer, rare bluefish and common maomao, the parore is a fish of inshore reefs, harbours, estuaries and beaches. Loose schools travel well up tidal creeks and graze on a variety of marine algae, including species adapted to brackish water. They’re also seen in dense surface schools feeding on plankton around headlands and offshore islands.
Parore are common around northern New Zealand, but not usually fished for with rod and line. Commercial net fishers target them as crayfish bait. One net can capture hundreds of large specimens, and in some estuaries parore have been effectively wiped out.
Vegetarians or not?
One look at the mouth of a parore and you can see it’s a grazer, not a flesh eater. The teeth are fused together in flat plates with small serrations along the edges. They use these teeth to graze algae from rocks, larger seaweeds and other surfaces. But while the parore is almost totally vegetarian, it also eats invertebrates, either accidentally with its normal vegetarian diet, or on purpose as each opportunity arises. Parore are easy to catch on shellfish baits, and I’ve used small crabs with reasonable success, too. They will also occasionally take soft-plastics.
Mussels (or tuatuas) are useful parore baits, but they also attract ‘nuisance’ fish like spotties, sometimes making it hard to catch your target species.
In certain situations parore eat peas, sweet corn and even chopped carrot, after local fish populations learn to feed on discarded kitchen/galley scraps. The parore of Matauwhi Bay in Russell gather beneath the yacht-club restaurant whenever the tide is right, waiting for food scraps rinsed from used dishes to empty into the water. Defrosted frozen peas and sweet-corn kernels are good parore baits in this location, but the local spotties also get in on the act.
One sure-fire way to catch parore and nothing else is to use green ‘weed’ or, more properly, algae. There are lots of varieties, and parore seem to eat them all, but a couple of types will meet an angler’s bait needs.
Although green sea lettuce is used as bait in Australia, where parore (luderick or blackfish to the Aussies) are a popular recreational species, it seems less effective in New Zealand. The sea lettuce that clogs Tauranga Harbour doesn’t work very well, perhaps because there is such a glut of it there, but I have caught fish in Northland using the green sea lettuce growing on ocean rocks in the intertidal zone.
A more reliable, easier to find bait is green filamentous algae. I gather mine from tide pools near the high-water mark close to my home. There are several varieties, with the slimiest (and least effective) types furthest from the shore. In general, the better varieties have the longest, best-defined filaments and are the brightest green. Lesser quality green weed is still useful as berley though, so I often gather it as well, keeping the best stuff as my hook bait.
A green algae that grows around the edges of tide pools, attached to the rock but floating on the surface, is also good bait, but tricky to attach to the hook. It makes good berley.
Green algae grows where fresh water runs over the rocks to meet the sea. It seems to thrive in brackish pools and becomes less common, with shorter filaments, the closer you get to the sea.
You can target parore using ledger rigs with light droppers and small hooks, a rig that fishes well with shellfish or crab baits, but I like to fish my green weed baits Australian style under a float.
A small (size #8 to #12) long-shank or beak-style hook – streamer fly hooks are good – is attached to a length of light nylon or fluorocarbon trace, and a small quill or waggler-style float is fixed further up the line.
I use enough split-shot to cock the float so it sits upright in the water and pulls under the surface at the lightest of bites. You can use split-shot either side of the float to secure it, or use one of the simple Asian-style float systems now available in most tackle stores. These incorporate a cone-shaped rubber sleeve that slides free on the line. The float comes with a tapered peg or pin attached to its base via a short length of braid; pushing the peg into the sleeve secures the float to the line. This system is dead easy to use and takes only moments to adjust.
I have enjoyed better success keeping lead shot well away from the hook, allowing the weed bait to waft about naturally in the water. Selecting the right depth makes a difference, so experiment until you get consistent bites. Often you’ll need to fish your bait somewhere near the bottom, but in many locations a couple of metres under the float is ample.
To bait up, wrap a bunch of green algae filaments around the line just above the hook and continue wrapping them down the shank of the hook. There’s no need to pass the hook through the bait, but be sure to secure the algae clump with a half-hitch in the line above the hook. It will then hang down over the hook and look quite natural in the water.
I’ve caught many parore on float tackle from the rocky shoreline between Takapuna and Milford beaches, which is also where I gather my bait.
For rock fishing I prefer a long, light rod. The one I use is designed for carp fishing. It’s around four metres long and I match it with a small spinning reel and nylon or braid line of around 4kg breaking strain. The rod’s length is handy for manipulating the float and keeping the line clear of the rocks.
When fishing from a jetty or in this case, into a marina, I opt for a shorter rod. It’s easier to manage, there’s no need to cast, and it offers a bit more stopping power – parore love wharf piles.
Any lightweight spinning rod works fine, but I use a seven-foot (2.14m) rod designed for ‘Egi’ or squid fishing. It has a limber tip and a forgiving action that is very good at preserving small, light wire hooks and fragile traces. Soft-bait rods are OK, but you’ll bend hooks and snap traces if you go too hard.
I stick with 3-4kg mainline for jetty/marina fishing and a light 2-3kg trace, because parore can be shy biters, especially in clear conditions, when you may also have to fish your weed baits deeper.
Testing the water
After a few minutes of bait collecting near Takapuna boat ramp, I sat myself down on the grass beside Milford Marina two hours before high tide in the middle of a windy afternoon. The marina was dirtier than I would have liked after recent rain, but I threw in a few pinches of weed anyway and tried to ascertain the water depth and current flow.
I decided the water was no more than three metres deep where I wanted to fish – a position I’d chosen because I hoped the slight back-eddy would concentrate my berley. Setting my bait about a rod-length from the float and using a single split-shot pinched onto the line well away from the hook, I lobbed my first bait into the water.
The float settled and cocked before beginning a slow drift with the current. I had time to toss a couple more pinches of green algae into the water close to my float before it hesitated, bobbed once and then slid under and away. A firm lift of the rod and I was on. Success!
Parore are strong fighters, using their broad, muscular bodies and paddle tails to good effect. This fish put up quite a struggle, darting this way and that, and trying its best to find sanctuary in the piles of a neighbouring jetty. The reel’s drag squealed and I had to perform a bit of fancy footwork to bring the fish to the net. At a little over half a kilo, it was not a big fish, but it was certainly entertaining to catch.
In the next 90 minutes I grassed seven parore and missed or lost as many again. A couple of bigger fish managed to find the jetty, and one broke me off by swimming into a culvert further along the bank, but the majority provided good sport that ended satisfactorily with a fish in the net.
I released them all, but the bigger ones would have been worth keeping for the table. They were a mixture of bright silvery specimens and a few very dark fish. The biggest was a black fish that fought very little, simply flopping around on the surface like a slabby trout, but probably weighed close to a kilo – a good-sized parore for Auckland.
I have since been down to the marina twice more, fishing from the bank and from one of the jetties. I caught fish both times and was once accompanied by my daughter Mila, who performed her customary netting duty when she became bored with float watching.
Float fishing for parore from rocky shorelines or in the sheltered waters of marinas, harbours and estuaries is an effective and entertaining style of fishing. I don’t understand why it’s not more popular – no need for the boat, either.
This article is reproduced with express permission of
by John Eichelsheim - 2011
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Originally published in New Zealand Fishing News